Disclaimer : The following manifesto has been published by Gwyneth Llewelyn, on her own blog. It is reprinted here to show my support of its intent. All credits for the manifesto itelf go to Gwyn. As I quote it verbatim, I have excepted it from the new terminology in vigour elsewhere on my blog.
Dear Linden Lab®,
Your recent change of policy regarding the usage of your trademarks — Second Life®, Linden Lab®, and others registered by Linden Research Inc. — will effectively prevent the operation of the very vibrant community of bloggers, forum posters, websites, community portals, and even 3rd party services, that have provided Linden Lab® with links and driving traffic to your blog, and raising brand awareness for free for your product Second Life®.
Probably thousands — if not dozens of thousands — of sites include (now illegitimately) the name “Second Life®” or “SL®” somewhere in their names. From sites like Reuters (which has a Second Life® channel) to whole companies that have a “Second Life® Division” (and promotes your product by the explicit naming of it), a plethora of online communities, products, and services — some free, other commercial, many in the limbo between both extremes — include, in some way, your registered trademarks.
Your previous policy, established in May 2004 (”Second Life® Fansite Tolkit”), and later reinforced with referral programmes like “Viva La Evolution”, positively encouraged the widespread use of your trademarks, so long as it was quite clearly displayed that no infringement was intended. To requote your own terms of agreement for the usage of your trademarks:
USE OF SECOND LIFE MARKS
While you are in full compliance with the usage guidelines described here, you may use the “Second Life” name on your website, as well as the related logos and graphics available at Toolkit, solely in the form described there. Additionally, you may use screenshots from Second Life to the extent that Linden Lab has the right to authorize use of the content within such screenshot, including screenshots of Linden in-world objects and Linden avatars, subject to these usage guidelines.
Under those very friendly terms, a plethora of fansites of all sorts popped up, driving traffic to Second Life®’s main website, its blogs, forums, and other related sites — making SL®’s own ranking quite high on Google, Alexa, and other systems — while at the same time, in a period of a little less than four years, allowing the number of registered users to skyrocket from 10,000 to 13 million.
Fansites, blogs, 3rd party sites, Second Life®-related online communities, 3rd party sites that create products and services related to Second Life® are the “off-world” counterpart of the dynamic and enthusiastic community that made Second Life®, as a brand, get world-wide recognition — without the need for Linden Lab® to spend millions in advertising and campaigns on the media. We worked for free on the promotion, brand awareness, and market recognition of your products — while, at the same time, we also worked for free creating the fantastic content of the 3D environment that makes Second Life® a place worth to visit, to enjoy, to chat, to socially connect, to do business, and launch the pillars of the upcoming metaverse — fulfilling Philip ‘Linden®’ Rosedale’s dream of having more users in Second Life® than on the Web.
We’ve been the ones ultimately promoting that vision, spreading it around, and making sure that the world noticed your product and your brand. We were very successful — thanks to your gentle and encouraging former policies.
And for four years, you have been thankful enough to allow us to do that promotion, by establishing very reasonable and clear guidelines of the terms of usage of your trademarks.
Your sudden reversal of position — effectively limiting the display of the name “Second Life®” on most sites, domain names, products, and services, through a mechanism of explicit approval that you fully admit “can take long and might never finish” and will only be available to a very limited number of sites — means that suddenly all the off-world promotion of Second Life® will necessarily have to stop; or face a lawsuit in court; or, at the very least, receive a Cease & Desist letter from your lawyers and be forced to shut down.
The current terms can be aggressively enforced or not. According to your blog, we are supposed to have a 90-day grace period to remove all mentioning of Second Life® and its logo from our fansites, blogs, forums, or 3rd party sites offering products and services related to Second Life®. In fact, what this means is that we are forced not to talk about Second Life® any more — or, if we do, we cannot explicitly name the product at all.
This is, obviously, absurd.
The compromise between Linden Research Inc. (owners of the registered trademarks) and the community of volunteers that have so faithfully promoted your product, Second Life®, was quite clear for the past four years. We had clear guidelines of what we could do and what we couldn’t. Abuses could still be effectively dealt with by your legal department; to the world’s knowledge, these cases were few and scattered, if any. They were not significative to prevent a vast number of dozens of thousands of sites of all sorts to draw traffic to your own site; to reach out the huge audience on the Internet; and to drive new users to register. The numbers fortunately speak for themselves: with almost zero promotional costs, you managed to grow a thousand times in four years, thanks to crowdsourcing the promotion of Second Life®.
The “inSL” programme is definitely interesting, but a small new logo, worthless to an audience of hundreds of millions of users that are familiar with the eye-on-hand logo, without a massive campaign of promotion behind it to reflect the logo change, is not enough. “inSL” doesn’t say much, and it cannot be expanded to talk and promote Second Life® directly. And, anyway, the same restrictions apply to the usage of “inSL” as with all your other trademarks. We appreciate the grant to use that new logo, but we also feel it will be unable to gather the same support and promotional effort as the old logo and the product name did in the past four years.
We would thus kindly request that you clarify your position regarding the usage of the trademarks Second Life® and the logo on all fansites, blogs, forums, or other 3rd party websites offering products and services related to Second Life®. This clarification should be as easy to follow as your previous policies on the usage of those trademarks. They should make clear that all people intending to promote your product and raise your brand awareness are not facing lawsuits because they have faithfully used your trademarks using the old policy, and wish to continue to do so in the future.
We consider that an appropriate response should be forthcoming in the next few days, or we will be forced to shut down our own blogs, websites, forums, community portals, and other 3rd party sites to avoid litigation — and thus deprieving Linden Lab® from the traffic generated by millions of direct links and millions of viewers that learn first about Second Life® through all those sites.
Personal note: This blog will enter on strike on April 15th, 2008, for a period of 3 days, if no clarification by Linden Lab is published before that date.